Let me tell you a story before I ‘try’ to write on ‘Kaili Blues.’
A middle-aged man caged in a shabby room, torn between emotional catharsis and physical world, torn between social acceptance and magical appearances, lifts his binoculars. Far away, in the distant reality, he sees an old man – long hair flowing against the gravity – staring right at him. He jumps in a lake. Swims across the sea on his motorbike, wearing a small blue shoe. Identity has become fluid, time has turned elliptical, memories have shaped into physical structure, and he is finally sucked in a tunnel. Disgruntled of his desire, he plays the cassettes where his deceased wife reads the poems.
“Without music, the ears go deaf
without rules, candles go out
just as people once believed that photographs could steal the soul
you took a photo and stole my soul
without razors, language becomes muted
Yet I have lived without a heart for nine years.”
Unlocking the chain tied by his step brother, he continues searching for the mystical women in the mountain heights, in the depth of his subconscious, in the lost time, and in his youth. Finally, what he finds is a grizzly man, transformed into a redeeming figure, asking where is WeiWei. The young man with binoculars looks towards the shabby room again, to find the middle aged man looking at him through the binoculars.
Blue shoes floating in the river, two buttons missing from the shirt, travel through the foggy mountain, and a thin plot that develops patiently which, at times, feels surreal. Kaili Blues is driven by the metaphysical poetry that blurs the line between enigmatic dreamscape and equally intriguing real life. The Chinese director Bi Gan elegantly shuffles between the elastic time and pliable space bolstered by the lyrical imagery and hypnotic music.
The past wounds conjure up to an ex-con who goes in search of his missing nephew. The journey is way too slow for passive cine-goers. But, if you are up for a challenging narration that is stitched of soft hypnotic vignette filled with profound poetry, it will invigorate the intimate feelings connecting your mind & soul.
A self-effacing mastery of camera movement is on display, especially in the 40-minute shot that strengthens the sense of immensity to every frame and dissolves the emotional arc of characters to mirror their fate & destiny. As the journey of a man unravels, and his life helically opens the pandora filled with memories, without him consciously realizing it, we witness the transcendence of sublime reality.